By Teresa Mallam
Free Press
Apr 18 2007

Theatre North West is ending its 2006/2007 season with a giant firecracker of a comedy, one that continued to soar and delight until the final curtain came down Friday. The Love List by Canadian playwright Norm Foster came to life on stage opening night like a sky-rocketing Roman candle in a production so well-timed and executed, the audience was lifted to new heights of humour. During the reception afterwards, many theatre goers said it was the best of the best, the funniest TNW play yet. Part of the credit obviously goes to Foster who created the characters and crafted the funny lines but there's no doubt that all three actors who shone so brightly were perfect for their parts.

The expertly crafted story centres around Bill, (Brian Linds) a staid, divorced, middle-aged statistician with no love prospects in sight and his married fidelity-challenged friend Leon played by Rick Hughes. For his 50th birthday, Leon gives Bill a dubious membership in a dating service run by a gypsy lady. At first reluctant, Leon relents and makes out a list of desirable qualities in a mate but in the finest tradition of 'be careful what you wish for' his ideal woman, Justine, (Leisa Way) appears at his front door. His fantasy woman proves to be a little more than Bill imagined, giving way to hilarious comedy.

Way as the woman who fits the bill for Bill, is probably the best imaginable pick for the role. She has a strong background in song, dance and musical theatre (add a Patsy Cline tribute CD to her long list of credits) that comes in handy for this very physically and emotionally demanding role. She's versatile. Her role calls for her to look professional in suits, sexy and sassy in a nightgown. She's funny. True, she has the gift of good lines but Way has a certain way about her - a sense of timing, body language and teasing - that wins over audiences. She also stick handles Foster's naughty bits of dialogue with a lot of class. There are lots of talented actors out there but, in this role, Way would be a tough act to follow.

Rick Hughes in his debut role with TNW as Leon reaffirms the fact that Ted Price and Anne Laughlin know who to pick 'em. He's very believable as the rascally but lovable rogue who tries to steer his friend into blissful whatever by enlisting him a matchmaking scheme. Hughes has a playful personality and infectious grin that is perfect for Leon. His skill as an actor comes out in every scene as he displays a gamut of emotions from anger at being rejected by his friend to belly laughs at their exchanged witticisms. Hughes' experience in radio, television and stage shines through in his ability to run with his character and really have fun with it.

Brian Linds as Bill is a good foil for Hughes' character. In his third role for TNW (he played older brother Baxter in Dogbarked, Rev. Derek in A Guide to Mourning) Linds keeps the audiences in stitches, poking fun at his character's low luster life with a high energy performance. In one scene, when Linds bounds on stage in a housecoat after a night of lust with his dream girl Justine, he truly looks like a character transformed from dull statistician to super stud. Very funny stuff.

The Love List plays nightly at 8 p.m. except Mondays at Theatre North West in Parkhill Centre until April 29. Tickets are available at Studio 2880 (phone 563-2880) and Books and Company (at press time, there were still matinee tickets for April 29 at 2 p.m.)